When is it a Good Idea to Hire an Interventionist to Get Someone into Treatment?

If you’re like many families with loved ones who have an addiction (one or more), you are probably agonizing over what to do. You’ve tried to argue with your loved one to clean up his or her act until you just can’t talk anymore. You’ve plead the case of getting treatment to help him or her overcome their dependence on alcohol and/or drugs to no avail. Nothing you seem to do or say is getting through. You’re up against a wall of resistance and denial so huge that you’re totally at a loss where to turn.

Maybe now is the right time to hire an interventionist to get your loved one into treatment.

There are other scenarios as well. See if your situation mirrors one of them:

• Elder parent abusing/dependent on painkillers. – Sometimes it’s not the family members residing in our own homes that are the problem. It may be Mom or Dad, getting on in years, often suffering age-related infirmities or battling with a medical condition. What may have begun as simply taking medication to alleviate pain could morph into a dependence on painkillers. Some older adults suffer from early Alzheimer’s disease and forget what medication they’ve taken and when. They may mix up medications, be unable to read the labels clearly, or otherwise become confused about what they’re taking.

Other times, our parents may continue to consume alcohol after they’ve taken their meds. They may not pay attention to or give it much thought that alcohol and medications are a dangerous mix. It’s also dangerous to take too much medication too frequently.

When you notice your parents seem less attentive than normal, are unable to function in everyday activities, their cognitive functioning seems impaired – and you question them about their medications, you may run up against a wall of self-defense, denial, or indignation. Our parents, who nurtured us and cared for us, don’t want to be seen as less than self-sufficient. They really don’t want their children telling them what to do. The truth is, however, that many of them become so dependent on their habit that they no longer have control over it.

An interventionist may be the right way to go to convince the parent to go into treatment.

• Spouse arrested for multiple DUIs, loses job, and suffers financial losses. – When it comes to problems resulting from alcohol or drug abuse or dependence, either spouse (or both) could be spiraling out of control. Addiction knows no boundaries and affects men and women, young and old, rich and poor, all ethnic backgrounds, religious or social affiliations.

When the negative consequences seriously jeopardize the family unit – such as multiple arrests for DUIs, loss of employment or demotion, financial insolvency or difficulty paying for the mortgage, utilities, food and basic necessities – it may be the appropriate time to consider hiring an interventionist to bring about the necessary change: to get the spouse into treatment.

• Co-worker or friend is going downhill fast. – Intervention is also initiated by close friends and co-workers who, along with concerned family members, want to do whatever it takes to halt the precipitous slide of the person with alcohol and/or drug problems, possibly compounded by process disorder such as compulsive gambling, work, sex, eating, or spending. It often takes this coordinated group effort – family members and close friends, co-workers and/or employer – along with the professional interventionist, to bring about the individual’s awareness and acknowledgement of the problem in order to get him or her to accept going into treatment.

There are certainly other scenarios that play out in society. This is not meant to be all-inclusive, just thought-provoking. The point is that it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, if your loved one, close friend, or co-worker – in other words, someone you care about – is experiencing mounting negative consequences as a result of abuse or dependence on substances or addictive behavior, something has to be done.

• Child failing in school, getting into constant trouble, deep into alcohol and/or drugs. – Adolescent and teenage years are filled with opportunities and challenges, some of which result in experimentation with alcohol and/or drugs. It could be intense peer pressure, a desire to fit in with the gang, to be considered cool, or to escape pressure, keep up with a heavy school workload, or numb out and avoid thinking about things that are unpleasant or unacceptable. There are many reasons why our children try substances to begin with, and not every adolescent or teen that does so goes on to abuse them or become dependent. But many do. And their lives can quickly spiral out of control as a result. Typical signs of substance abuse and dependence include failing grades, disciplinary problems at school and home, stealing, lying, getting into trouble with police, fights, change in appearance, wild and erratic mood swings, and many others.
Many parents facing such a situation believe that grounding their child or taking away privileges is enough to stop substance use. For some, it may be. But for adolescents and teens who may have underlying issues they’re not dealing with, including depression, anxiety, sense of worthlessness or low self-esteem, among others, using drugs and/or alcohol is their only means of coping. Research shows that the earlier a child begins to use alcohol, especially before the age of 14, the more likely it is that he or she will develop problems with alcohol in adulthood.

Experimentation by adolescents often begins with inhalants. They’re cheap, easier to obtain, and give a high that quickly becomes addicting. Alcohol may be the next drug of choice. Again, it’s easy enough to either persuade an older sibling or adult to buy the booze, or to filch it from the home. Binge drinking parties, so common on college campuses, are also fairly widespread among high school youths. Studies of long-term alcoholics reveal that most began drinking early – in their beginning teens, if not before.

By the time alcohol consumption reaches abuse level, there may be other drugs in play as well. Ecstasy, cocaine, crystal meth, and prescription drugs used nonmedically, even black tar heroin – all can wreak havoc on the lives of our children.
What can parents do? Hire an interventionist to get the child into treatment.

Intervention is Just the Beginning

Obviously, the intervention serves a single purpose: to get your loved one into treatment. But it’s only the first step in a journey to recovery. Without treatment, many addicts will never give up their drug of choice. They will continue to go downhill. The debilitating consequences may be gradual or occur rapidly, but they will inevitably coalesce.

Think of intervention this way: it’s a forced wake-up call. The addict will never choose to have an intervention. That’s why some minor subterfuge is involved in getting the person to the location where the intervention is held. It may be that the individual thinks he or she is just meeting friends, or planning for a party, or some other semi-valid excuse. Otherwise, they’d never show up.

And interventions aren’t a piece of cake. Family members, close friends and others who agree to participate have to first go to a pre-meeting where the specifics of how the intervention will take place are explained by the interventionist. A time, date and place are scheduled. Each participant practices what he or she will say to the loved one/friend/co-worker about how that individual’s addiction has affected them, ending with a plea to accept and go into treatment.

Interventions are an intense emotional experience for all concerned. There may be tears, threats, arguments, resistance, denial – the loved one may even walk out of the room. But the alternative of doing nothing is not a viable option. Despite the difficulties, the objections, the perceived hardship or rationalization of why he or she can’t possibly go into treatment, many times the desired objective is achieved: the person does go into treatment.

Family members often go into family therapy at the same time as the loved one. That’s because they need to learn more about the disease of addiction and how the things they say or do need to change upon the loved one’s return home after completion of treatment. It can’t just be status quo. Recovery requires ongoing support and encouragement and the family unit is one of the most important parts of that support network.

When is it a good time to hire an interventionist to get your loved one into treatment? Maybe now is the time to seriously consider it. Ask yourself one question: Are you willing to do what it takes to give your loved one the opportunity to get on the road to recovery? If you answer in the affirmative – and you know that your loved one won’t go into treatment on his or her own, even with ultimatums family members deliver independently – you’re in the right mindset to consider hiring an interventionist.

Remember, you have to be firm and keep the end goal in mind: recovery. While the addict ultimately has to want to overcome his or her addiction, treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be effective. The individual will learn about the disease of addiction, regardless of whether or not treatment was voluntary. And he or she may very well decide that it’s in their best interest to move past dependence on substances and toward a life that’s drug- and alcohol-free. Many do. Perhaps your loved one will be one of them.